Masters in Portugal: A Pathway to Living in the Country

4 de April, 2023

Masters in Portugal: A Pathway to Living in the Country

Entering a master's degree in Portugal is a simple and affordable way to obtain residency in Portugal. See here how to apply.
Reading: 9 min

Portugal is a country increasingly sought after by students from all over the world who wish to pursue a master’s degree abroad. This is mainly due to the high quality of education offered in the country, the low cost of the courses, and the fact that Portuguese universities have partnerships with several prestigious institutions around the world. Joining a master in Portugal is also a simple and affordable way to obtain a residence visa in Portugal, being an interesting option for those who wish to live in the country but do not have Portuguese citizenship.

When a student is approved in a master’s program, he or she has the possibility to apply for a study visa that will allow him or her to reside in the country for the duration of the

course. And after finishing the course, they can apply for a new residence permit, valid for one year, to seek employment in the area in which they have specialized. This is a very common option for those who wish to move to Portugal, since after five years of legal residence, the foreigner may become eligible to obtain Portuguese citizenship.

In this article we will explain how Master’s courses in Portugal work, costs involved, selection processes, required documents and application calendar so you can plan your studies in the country. Applications are already open, so if you are interested in the subject, start your planning now!

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How does a master´s degree work in Portugal?

Those who have completed their undergraduate degree (licenciatura or 1st cycle) can continue their studies by completing a master’s degree, which in Portugal is known as the 2nd Cycle. However, it is important to point out that there is a distinction between the Mestrado Integrado and the 2º Ciclo.

  • Integrated Masters: lasting 5 or 6 years, it incorporates the undergraduate degree into a single course.
  • 2nd CycleThe 2nd Cycle is an academic program lasting from 3 to 4 semesters, aimed at those who have already completed an undergraduate degree. Unlike the Integrated Master, the 2nd Cycle is not part of the student’s initial education and is a specialization option after graduation.

Credit system, courses and recourse

Master’s degrees in Portugal follow the European credit system (ECTS), with a requirement of 120 ECTS to complete the course. The subjects are called “chairs” and each one corresponds to an amount of credits. The recovery process is called “appeal” and is paid for. In addition, the maximum grade is 20. An average of at least 10 is required to pass.

Public or private universities?

Public universities are not free, but they are usually cheaper than private ones. Some public universities may charge a tuition fee for foreign students, while others do not. In addition, public universities tend to have a wider range of master’s degrees and a longer academic tradition.

Focus on the job market

The master’s degree in Portugal has a focus more on the labor market than on an academic career. Although the production of scientific articles may occur in some courses, generally the dissertation is the main form of completion of the study cycle.

How to Study in Portugal: Complete Guide to Study in the Country

Is English spoken in master´s courses in Portugal?

Yes, in many Portuguese universities, especially public ones, English is a widely used language and an option for many master courses. This is because Portugal receives many international students and wants to provide a quality education for them. In addition, many courses have a global focus or have international professors and researchers who communicate in English. It is important to check in advance the languages of instruction for each course before applying.

What is the application period for a master’s degree in Portugal?

The application period for master’s degrees in Portugal can vary depending on the university and the course. Normally, the application period occurs at the end of the year prior to the start of the academic year, between December and February, but in some institutions it can extend until July. They can also occur in several stages, with the 1st stage (January/February) usually offering the most places.

At the University of Porto, for example, the 2nd application phase is running right now and goes until April 21st. The 3rd phase goes until July 25th.

Which are the best universities in Portugal?

There are several well respected universities in Portugal in different fields of study. These institutions are usually part of world rankings, such as QS World University Rankings, o Times Higher Education World University Rankingsas well as the Webometrics Ranking of World Universities.

Some of the most renowned and internationally recognized Portuguese universities are:

  • University of Lisbon (ULisboa)
  • University of Porto (UP)
  • University of Coimbra (UC)
  • New University of Lisbon (NOVA)
  • Aveiro University (UA)
  • University of Minho (UMinho)
  • Instituto Superior Técnico (IST)
  • Portuguese Catholic University (UCP)

It is important to note that the choice of the best university may vary according to the course and the student’s area of interest. It is recommended to research the reputation of the course and the institution before making a definitive choice.

What are the best Master’s Degrees in Portugal?

It is difficult to pinpoint the best, but it is possible to name some Master’s courses that have been ranked as the best in Portugal in their fields and are also internationally recognized for their academic excellence and reputation:

  • Aerospace Engineering at the University of Porto
  • European Studies at the University of Lisbon
  • Development Studies at the New University of Lisbon
  • Marine Sciences at the University of Algarve
  • Architecture at the University of Coimbra
  • Data Science and Information Technology at the University of Porto
  • Marketing at Nova School of Business and Economics
  • Public Health at the University of Porto
  • International Law at the University of Lisbon
  • Management at Católica Lisbon School of Business and Economics

How much does it cost to do a master’s degree in Portugal?

The cost of a master’s degree can vary depending on the educational institution and the course chosen. In Portugal, tuition fees are called “propinas” (fees). On average, the annual tuition for a course can range from around 1,000 euros to 7,000 euros for international students. It is important to note that foreign students generally pay more than Portuguese and European Union students. In other words: those with Portuguese citizenship pay less to study at the country’s universities.

Which are the cheapest universities in Portugal?

Some public universities, such as the University of Lisbon, the University of Porto, and the University of Minho, usually have more affordable prices compared to private universities.

Who can apply for a master’s degree?

Students who have completed a Bachelor’s Degree (1st Cycle) or an equivalent course, either in Portugal or abroad, can apply for the Master’s Degree (2nd Cycle) in Portugal, as long as it is recognized by a Portuguese higher education institution.

It is important to remember that each university may have specific requirements for admission to their master’s programs. The information and requirements of each institution are usually contained in the application notices.

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What documents are required in the selection process?

The documents vary according to each master’s degree program and university. The most common are:

  • Identification documents: passport;
  • Undergraduate documents: diploma, transcript of grades and academic average;
  • Professional resume;
  • Academic Resumé: certificates of extra courses, articles published in scientific journals, lectures, seminars, participation in congresses, etc;
  • Letter of interest: the candidate is usually asked to write a letter explaining the reason for their interest and their objective;
  • Letter of recommendation: this can be from a former undergraduate professor (your advisor, for example) or an expert in your field.

What are the requirements to be accepted?

The requirements to be accepted into a master’s program in Portugal usually include:

  • Have completed an undergraduate degree (BA, BS or equivalent) in the field or in a field related to the desired master’s program.
  • Present documents such as diplomas, academic transcripts, and undergraduate grade point averages.
  • Some universities may require proof of either Portuguese or English language proficiency, depending on the language of instruction of the course.
  • Documentary evidence of professional experience in the area or in areas related to the course, such as a resume and a letter of recommendation.
  • In some cases, you may need to submit a letter of motivation or a research project.
  • Comply with the application process deadlines and requirements set by the university.

Many universities conduct interviews (virtual or face-to-face) with the candidates, which are usually conducted by the coordinator of the chosen course. It is worth noting that the candidate’s professional resume usually carries a lot of weight in the selections.

How long does a Master’s degree in Portugal last?

The duration of the 2nd Cycle is 3 to 4 semesters.

How to get a scholarship for a master’s degree?

There are scholarships and funding programs available for international students who wish to pursue a master’s degree in Portugal, from both public and private entities. Here are some possibilities:

  • Scholarships offered by the universities themselves: Some Portuguese universities offer scholarships for master’s degree students. Check information directly with the one where you wish to study.
  • Scholarships offered by the government: The Portuguese government offers several scholarships for international students. One of the main ones is the Portuguese Government Scholarship (BEGP), which is available to students from Portuguese Cooperation partner countries.
  • Scholarships offered by international organizations: Some international organizations, such as the Ford Foundation, the Gates Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation, offer scholarships for international students.
  • Scholarships offered by the European Union: the best known program is Erasmus+ .
  • Scholarships for Brazilian students: there are some specific scholarship options for Brazilian students who wish to study for a Master’s degree in Portugal. Some of these are the Top España Scholarship, offered by Santander Universities, and the Santander Universities Luso-Brazilian Scholarship, offered in partnership with the University of Coimbra. There are also options from CAPES and CNPq, which are the main funding agencies in Brazil.

Scholarships are often very competitive and usually have specific selection criteria. It is important to do this research well in advance and to prepare well for getting a scholarship.

How to choose a Master’s course in Portugal?

When choosing a master’s course in Portugal, it is important to consider a few factors, such as:

  • Area of interest: choose an area of study that is aligned with your interests and career goals.
  • Credibility of the university: research the reputation of the university where the course is offered. It is important to choose an institution that is recognized and respected in the job market.
  • Faculty: check the qualifications and experience of the professors who will be teaching in the course. This can have a direct impact on the quality of teaching and on your academic training.
  • Curriculum Structure: Analyze the course curriculum and check if it is aligned with your learning and career goals.
  • Internship and research opportunities: Check if the university offers internship and research opportunities in your area of interest. These experiences can be instrumental in enhancing your knowledge and developing practical skills.
  • Cost: Take into consideration the cost of the course, including tuition, housing and meals. Make sure the course fits into your budget.
  • Location: Consider the location of the university and check if it offers the necessary infrastructure to meet your needs.

Note that some courses are more renowned at certain universities. For example, the area of Law has the University of Coimbra as a world reference. Courses related to Engineering and Medicine are well evaluated in the universities of Lisbon and Porto. The University of Beira Interior has found prestige in its courses in the Health area, while the University of Minho is very sought after for its courses in Architecture and in areas of technology.

Concluding remarks

Portugal is a popular destination for students who wish to obtain a Master’s degree abroad and broaden their academic and professional horizons, as it offers high quality programs at low cost, renowned universities, and funding opportunities.

For foreigners who dream of living in Portugal, taking a master’s degree can be an excellent option, since it allows access to a study visa, which authorizes legal residence in the country for the duration of the course. Furthermore, at the end of the master’s degree, the student may apply for a residence permit to seek employment in the area in which he/she specialized, increasing the chances of remaining in the country. Finally, as mentioned above, after 5 years living legally in Portuguese territory, the foreigner may request Portuguese citizenship.

It is also important to note that Portugal is a country with a rich and diverse culture, and offers excellent quality of life, with a mild climate, good cuisine and fascinating tourist attractions. With a student visa, foreigners will have the opportunity to explore all that the country has to offer while developing their academic and professional skills.

If you are interested in studying abroad and expanding your academic horizons, consider pursuing a master’s degree in Portugal. Contact Atlantic Bridge for more information.



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